—Atchafalaya Water Heritage Trail —
The Atchafalaya Basin is made up of three floodways - The West Atchafalaya Floodway, The Morganza Floodway and the Lower Atchafalaya Basin Floodway - which together are designed to move floodwaters south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Prior to the Mississippi River Flood of 1927, the Atchafalaya Basin had served an increasing role as a distributary outlet of the Mississippi River during seasonal flooding. As a result of the Flood Control Act of 1928, the Basin became a distributary floodway system of the lower Mississippi River. This act also gave the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers authority over flood control here. The USACE constructed and maintains a network of flood control structures and natural areas that assist in the management of region.
The Atchafalaya Basin is made up of three floodways: the West Atchafalaya Floodway and the Morganza Floodway at the northern end and the Lower Atchafalaya Basin Floodway at the southern end. The 833,000-acre Basin floodway begins at the Old River Control Complex just northeast of Simmesport and runs between the Atchafalaya Basin levees to the Gulf of Mexico. Together these floodways are designed to move flood waters to the Gulf. Many interconnected waterways, bayous and swamps form the Basin and create the complicated network that drains the Atchafalaya, Red and Mississippi rivers.
Bayou is 28,500 acres of federal land located within the West Atchafalaya Floodway. It receives periodic backwater flooding from the Atchafalaya River and excess rainwater through the Courtableau water-control structure north of Indian Bayou. This area encompasses swamps, bottomland hardwoods, restored agricultural areas and water features, including Bayou Fordouche, Bayou Fusilier, the north flats of Henderson Lake and Lake Bigeaux. The latter two bodies of water along Indian Bayou's southern edge are visible from Interstate 10 on the Atchafalaya Bridge.
Long before the creation of the Atchafalaya Basin Floodway, Indian Bayou was historically important in Louisiana. The Opelousas Tribe first populated the area, and it was later colonized by the French and then the Spanish. Indian Bayou also received an influx of immigrants from St. Domingue (present-day Haiti) during the slave revolution on that island. Several Civil War skirmishes took place around the area, and the nearby city of Opelousas served as the state capital for nine months following the fall of Baton Rouge in 1862.
Today Indian Bayou is open to the public for fishing, hunting, birding and paddling. It also offers 35 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding and eight miles of all-terrain vehicle trails.
Visit Atchafalaya.org for more information about this site.
This site's geology/geomorphology: Holocene backswamp deposits